KUALA LUMPUR, May 9 — Now-fugitive Low Taek Jho was seen talking with former prime minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak’s stepson Riza Shahriz Abdul Aziz and the latter’s co-producer for the Wolf of Wall Street movie, Joey McFarland, on a yacht in Europe during a vacation by Najib and his family in 2013, the High Court heard today.
Najib’s former special officer Datuk Wan Ahmad Shihab Wan Ismail also said it was Low who had arranged most of Najib’s dealings with the royalties of several countries in the Middle East.
Wan Ahmad Shihab, 48 and now carrying out his own business, said this while testifying as the 16th prosecution witness in Najib’s trial over the misappropriation of more than RM2 billion of government-owned company 1Malaysia Development Berhad’s (1MDB) funds.
Wan Ahmad Shihab today testified of how Low had contacted him three times during the 2009 to 2013 period to inform him of invitations for Najib and his family to spend their holidays in Europe on yachts purportedly owned by princes of Middle East nations Kuwait, UAE and Saudi Arabia, adding that Najib had confirmed such information by Low and went for all three trips with his family.
For the third trip which was in France in July 2013 aboard the “Topaz” yacht said to be owned by an Abu Dhabi prince known as “Sheikh Mansour”, Wan Ahmad Shihab said Najib’s entourage numbering around 25 persons included Najib’s wife Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, their two children Nor Ashman and Nooryana Najwa and Daniyar Kessikbayev (who later became Nooryana Najwa’s husband in 2015).
Najib and his entourage had arrived on July 4, 2013 in France before being brought to the Topaz yacht, with Wan Shihab confirming that he himself and Sarawakian businessman Tan Sri Bustari Yusof (the brother of minister Datuk Seri Fadillah Yusof) and one of Bustari’s sons were also present.
On July 5, 2013 which was the second day of the trip, Wan Ahmad Shihab said he had seen Hollywood actor Jamie Foxx together with his family at a separate part of the yacht and concluded that this was just a coincidence, as he said that he was informed by the yacht’s manager Robert Shepherd that the actor and his family too were guests of Sheikh Mansour on the yacht.
Wan Ahmad Shihab said that the yacht “was huge, like some six stories high” to support his thought on the actor’s presence on the yacht being a coincidence.
He also confirmed seeing Abu Dhabi firm Aabar Investments PJS director Mohamed Badawy Al-Husseiny together with professional golf coach Robert Baker on Topaz, and said he had subsequently seen Mohamed Badawy frequently being together with Najib and Bustari on the yacht.
On that same night on July 5, Wan Ahmad Shihab said Shepherd had informed that he was getting ready to welcome Riza to the yacht.
“When Riza Aziz arrived on the Topaz yacht, I found that Jho Low and Joey McFarland (Wolf of Wall Street producer) were also present together but I assumed they were present to enjoy the holiday together. Throughout the time Jho Low and Joey McFarland were on that yacht, I saw that almost all the time they are always together and their conversation was very much focused on film-making for Hollywood,” he said.
Wan Ahmad Shihab said that Najib, Rosmah and their children — Nooryana Najwa, Nor Ashman, Riza — and Daniyar were the only ones who had left the yacht for a dinner at a hotel owned by a Malaysian businessman on July 6, 2013, and that he subsequently did not see Low or McFarland on the yacht and did not know when or where the duo had left.
Riza, who is the co-founder of Hollywood production house Red Granite Pictures, was in July 2019 charged with money-laundering over US$248 million linked to the 1MDB scandal, but was in May 2020 granted a discharge not amounting to acquittal of the charges as applied for by the prosecution, after Riza agreed to pay several millions of ringgit to the Malaysian government.
Wan Ahmad Shihab said he, Bustari and Bustari’s son had on July 9, 2013 left on commercial flights from France while Najib and his family returned the same day using a government aircraft.
As the officer in charge of ensuring all accommodation bills for Najib’s private trips are paid, Wan Ahmad Shihab said he had checked whether any bills had to be paid for the holiday on the yacht, but was told by Topaz’s manager Shepherd that no payments were required.
Wan Ahmad Shihab said he assumed this was because they were all guests of Sheikh Mansour for the trip, and later told Najib’s lead defence lawyer Tan Sri Muhammad Shafee Abdullah that he was told that the prince wanted to host the prime minister and his family on the yacht although he would not be on board.
Wan Ahmad Shihab also confirmed that there were arrangements for golf as arranged by the concierge, with Shafee remarking: “Just to put on record, Datuk Seri Najib is an ardent golfer.”
Jho Low, Najib and the Middle East
Wan Ahmad Shihab today also said he could see that Low had “easy access” with the palaces of several Middle East nations.
“I wish to add here, about the relationship and role of Jho Low with Datuk Seri Najib, almost all of Datuk Seri Najib’s dealings with the palace of Middle East countries such as the United Arab Emirates, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Kuwait were arranged by Jho Low,” he said, noting that this was based on how Low had connected him to such palaces to arrange for audiences with the kings or rulers of those countries.
Asked by Shafee later, Wan Shihab said “100 per cent, absolutely” when agreeing that Low seemed to have an excellent connection with Middle East royalties.
“Because each time I had to deal with the royal court, he’s put me through at the highest levels. There were occasions when he would inform me ahead when palace officials would be in touch with PMO, he knew in advance before we even met it,” he said, agreeing that Low had known in advance about the extra allocation of hajj quota or quota for Muslim pilgrims to Saudi Arabia to Malaysia and had informed the Prime Minister’s Office about this.
Wan Ahmad Shihab also agreed with Shafee’s suggestion that Low had informed then prime minister Najib that he would be receiving the highest award from the Saudi government “before anybody else informed Datuk Seri Najib”.
Wan Ahmad Shihab agreed with Shafee’s suggestion that Low may have likely used the “same trick” where Middle East leaders would have seen him as being very close to Malaysia due to representations made by him, just as how Malaysia’s prime minister’s office observed Low to have good ties with Middle East nations.
Najib’s trial before High Court judge Datuk Collin Lawrence Sequerah resumes tomorrow morning.
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